Coco Gauff Says She’s ‘Not Trying' to Follow in Serena Williams’ ‘Footsteps’: ‘She’s the G.O.A.T.’ (Exclusive)

"But obviously I do want to be the best version of myself and be the best that I can be," the 19-year-old tennis star tells PEOPLE exclusively

Coco Gauff is putting things in perspective.

The 19-year-old tennis star — who's a favorite to win the 2023 US Open, following her recent history-making tournament titles — opened up to PEOPLE about the pressures of repping USA, following Serena Williams' decision to retire in 2022 after 27-plus years.

"Yeah, definitely... I do think there's a slight pressure and everybody's looking at me," Gauff tells PEOPLE exclusively at her New Balance pop-up shop, celebrating the launch of the Coco CG1 sneaker in NYC on Thursday.

But by acknowledging the 23-time Grand Slam champ as the "G.O.A.T.," Gauff has come to terms with the responsibility she feels she has to uphold after Williams hung up her racket.

"It does put a little bit less pressure in a way because she is the greatest player of all time," explains Gauff, who's currently ranked the No. 6 player in the world.

Related: Coco Gauff on Chasing Her First Grand Slam Title at the US Open: 'The Goal Is to Win' (Exclusive)

<p>Sarah Stier/Getty</p>

Sarah Stier/Getty

The hype around the Florida native began in 2019 when she took the tennis world by storm at age 15, notably defeating her role modelVenus Williams, in the first round of Wimbledon. She then went on to clinch the victory at the Linz Open, becoming the youngest player on the WTA Tour to win a singles title since 2004.

Despite comparisons to tennis legend Serena, Gauff tells PEOPLE she's "not trying to fulfill those footsteps whatsoever." She adds, "But obviously I do want to be the best version of myself and be the best that I can be."

And in recent years, she's been proving to be just that. Gauff has captured five WTA tournament championships, with three of those wins coming from this season. Among them included her victory at the Mubadala Citi DC Open — where Gauff not only became the first teenager, but also the youngest player to ever win that tournament.

Related: Unique Rules You Didn't Know US Open Players and Spectators Must Follow

<p>Mirror NYC</p>

Mirror NYC

She later followed up that win at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where she defeated World No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the semifinals. The victory marked her biggest title of her career, while also making her the first teen champion at the tournament since 1968.

Between the momentum that Gauff is riding, and Serena's retirement, the young tennis star tells PEOPLE she thinks that "people are looking for someone else to take that mantle" from the G.O.A.T. However, Gauff doesn't see that ever happening.

"I don't think anybody will [take Serena's mantle] because she's just one of a kind," she says. "But I will try my best to be the best Coco."

Related: Coco Gauff in Tears After Unexpected Loss at Australian Open: 'She Just Played Better'

<p>Mirror NYC</p>

Mirror NYC

"A lot of people think a lot of things about me and expect a lot of things from me," Gauff continues. "I think in a way I try to use that as belief in myself," she says, but "not necessarily an expectation."

"For the most part, I just try to focus on me and myself and hope that I can just still enjoy it," she adds. "I think the results will come."

While Gauff has made it clear that she won't be "fulfilling" Serena's shoes, she — both figuratively and literally — is stepping into shoes of her own, her latest signature pair with New Balance.

The Coco CG1 'City Brights' colorway is splashed with colors to "standout" and hidden "Easter eggs" inspired by her family scattered all over the shoe, like a quote her dad told her when she was young.

"When I'm on court, I like to be reminded of my family, so I wanted to include that," Gauff tells PEOPLE. "That was the inspiration behind this colorway."

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